What is New in the Windows* 8.1 User Interface

 Since Microsoft* released the Windows 8.1 RTM (Release to Manufacturing) build, we are able to check out some of the new UI features in this upcoming Windows release. This blog is based on the preview releases that are publicly available. The information is subject to change by Microsoft when Windows 8.1 is released. 

“Start” Screen


On the Windows 8.1 “Start” screen (Figure 1), a total of 4 tile sizes (large square, wide, medium square, and small) are available, compared to only two in Windows 8 (wide, and small). There is an downward arrow button at the bottom-left corner.  Pressing the arrow button leads to the “Apps” screen (Figure 2), which shows all the apps installed on the system.   




Figure 1 The Windows 8.1 Start screen includes tiles for apps, the down-ward arrow at the bottom left corner leads to the Apps screen


In Windows 8.1, a user installed app does not automatically show up on the Start screen by default. Instead, it only appears in the “Apps” screen. The user can explicitly “pin” the app to the Start screen.




Figure 2 The Apps screen includes icons for all apps installed on the system


“Start” Button


After Windows 8 was released, I could imagine many people sent their messages to Redmond, WA: “Where is the Start button?”, and Microsoft did hear the voice. As Mr. Ballmer announced at Build 2013, the “Start” button is back in Windows 8.1. The behavior of the Windows 8.1 Start button is different from the previous versions: short press or left click at it will toggle between the Start screen and the Desktop mode, while long press or right click at it will bring up the Start button menu (Figure 3). 



Figure 3 Right click at the Start button at the bottom left corner will show the Start button menu


Global Search

One significant improvement we saw in Windows 8.1 is in search.  “Global search” is now incorporated in the Search charm (Figure 4). This is the real search a user would expect. In Windows 8 the default search charm behavior was searching for an app locally, which was quite limited. Global search is also called “Smart search”. It is powered by the Bing search services. It aggregates information from different sources and presents to the user in a hub view. For example, Figure 5 shows the search result of “yellowstone”.   



Figure 4 The Search charm automatically perform Global Search




Figure 5 The Bing-powered Windows 8.1 Search returns the aggregated information from multiple sources 



Snapped View

Windows 8 introduced the “Snapped” view multitasking concept, but only allowed the snapped app to occupy the screen a fixed 320 pixels in width. Windows 8.1 allows flexible adjustment on how the multitasking apps occupy the screen (Figure 6). It also allows the multitasking of more than 2 apps.





Figure 6 Windows 8.1 provides more flexibility on how to arrange the two snap view apps on the screen, in this case the two apps occupy 50/50 of the screen



Lock Screen

Two lock screen features are added in Windows 8.1. The lock screen can be configured to play a photo slide show. From the lock screen, the user can also directly access the camera.


Other Changes

Windows 8.1 includes other UI changes. For example, it can be set up to directly boot into the Desktop mode instead of the Modern UI. It also provides more color and theme personalization options for users. 


For Developers


This blog discusses Windows 8.1 UI features. For in-depth discussion, developers may also check out the following MSDN* links:


·         Windows 8.1 Preview Product Guide for Developers

·         Windows 8.1 feature guide:

·         Migrating Windows 8 apps to Windows 8.1 Preview



*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.



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Enabling Face Login Features on Intel® Atom™ Processor-based Windows* 8 Tablets



Face Login refers to using the user’s facial biometrics characteristics to access a password protected application or unlock the system’s lock screen. Because Windows* 8 Runtime does not provide a “Face Recognition” API, we cannot implement the face login feature for a Windows Store app by directly calling a Windows Runtime API. On the other hand, the latest generation Intel® Atom™ processor based platforms support multiple high definition cameras and advanced Image Signal Processing technology, and provide a foundation to use the Windows media capture APIs to implement the Face login features. Intel® Perceptual Computing SDK 2013 also provides APIs to implement the face recognition features.



UI Flow of Face Login

We use the login of a healthcare app as an example. This app manages a patient information database, which includes patient profiles, lab test results, medical images, and vital graphs, etc. Because of the sensitivity characteristics of the data, the app was first designed to require the user login to the app using a user name and a password. To extend the app to support face login, some way is needed to let the user choose to do face login instead of the text based login. Here we add a camera button for that purpose (Figure 1).


Figure 1 The “Photo Login” button was added to let user access the face login feature



If the user presses the “Photo Login” button, the front facing camera will be started to preview the user’s face images. It tries to detect the face of the user and match the face landmarks with the landmarks stored in the user profile (Figure 2).




Figure 2 Detect and match the user’s face and match the landmarks with the landmarks stored in the user profile


If the facial landmarks are matched, the app will grant the user access. If the matching is not successful (timeouts), or the user decides not continuing the face login process (by pressing the camera button again), the app returns back to the conventional login screen (Figure 1).



Face Login with Intel® Perceptual Computing SDK 2013

Intel® Perceptual Computing SDK 2013 (PerC SDK, includes the following core capabilities: close-range gesture tracking, speech recognition, face analysis, and augmented reality. PerC SDK’s Face Tracking Module provides a suite of face detection, face recognition, landmark detection and face attribute detection APIs, with which developers can use to implement the face login features for Windows 8 application and device login.

Face recognition in PerC SDK includes 3 stages: face detection, face landmark, and model creation. The face detection algorithm locates the rectangle position of a face or multiple faces in an image or video sequence in real-time capture or playback mode and marks it with a unique identifier. The landmark detection algorithm locates the 6-point or 7-point landmarks: the outer and inner corners of the eyes, the tip of the nose, and the outer corners of the mouth. The face recognizer then creates a camera model and compare the model with the database or array to see if there is a match. Figure 3 shows the flow of face recognition.



Figure 3 Face recognition with Perc SDK 2013 uses the face detection algorithm and the landmark detection algorithm to create a model



First, we enable face detection and face landmark with the UtilPipeline class methods (Code Example 1).




Code Example 1 Use UtilPipeline to implement face recognition, pp is the UtilPipeline object **


Then the PXCMFaceAnalysis namespace classes are used to perform face detection and face landmark, then to create model (Code Example 2).


PXCMFaceAnalysis.Detection ftd = face.DynamicCast<PXCMFaceAnalysis.Detection>(PXCMFaceAnalysis.Detection.CUID);

PXCMFaceAnalysis.Landmark ftl = face.DynamicCast<PXCMFaceAnalysis.Landmark>(PXCMFaceAnalysis.Landmark.CUID);

PXCMFaceAnalysis.Recognition faceRecognizer = (PXCMFaceAnalysis.Recognition)face.DynamicCast(PXCMFaceAnalysis.Recognition.CUID);


faceRecognizer.CreateModel(faceId, out cameraModel);


Code Example 2 Face detection, face landmark, and model creation **

After the camera model is created, it can be used to compare with the models stored in a database, or models stored in the cloud over RESTful web services (Code Example 3).

// DB_Model is all the pre stored faces

cameraModel.Compare(DB_Model, null, out index);




Code Example 3 Compare the camera model with the Database **




*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

**This sample source code is released under the Intel Sample Source Code License Agreement




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Pre-caching Offline Map Areas in Mobile Maps

Up until recently, mobile map services required the devices connect to a carrier data network or WiFi. This causes inconvenience for people use WiFi only, because in many cases people need to use the map services under no WiFi connection circumstance. Recently Google Maps for Android added the map area pre-caching as a Labs feature. […] Read more >